Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Andreyev relates his tale simply and directly, using clean and honest language, even to describe the most distasteful details of Lazarus’s appearance and stench after his three days in the grave. Much of the power of this story lies in Andreyev’s skillful use of allegorical motifs and archetypal images to express the idea of death’s ultimate power. These give the story of “Lazarus” breadth and timelessness. Lazarus’s five meetings can be read in such allegorical and archetypal terms. In each instance, Andreyev uses characters as representations of concepts. Rather than explore their psychological workings, feelings, and motivations as characters, Andreyev uses them as types. The lovers, for example, represent the concept of love in all of its implications and complexity. The sage, too, is archetypal and allegorical rather than a unique character is his own right. Andreyev is less interested in this particular character than he is in the larger ideas of knowledge and wisdom and their cultural significance.

Adding an interesting twist is the irony suggested by the role of the sculptor in the story. Although Andreyev argues the ultimate futility of art in the face of death, he himself is an artist and “Lazarus” is a work of art. This gives the story an added layer of tension that makes possible a more complex reading.